Unions call for ownership change at Lancashire nuclear fuel site

Unions have called on the Government to change the ownership model at Lancashire’ nuclear fuel production plant at Salwick.

By Tim Gavell
Sunday, 26th September 2021, 8:22 am

US firm Westinghouse owns the Spring fields factory which is the only site in the UK producing fuel for reactors for electricity generation.

The Prospect and Untie unions have been campaigning to retain skilled jobs at the site which are under pressure as only one new nuclear power station is being built despite the fact that the old power stations are coming to the end of their life.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies recently lobbied the energy minister about the future of nuclear skills and jobs and was told an announcement is in the pipeline.

The huge nuclear fuel factory at Springfields between Preston and Blackpool

But unions feel it may be too late as by the time power stations are built UK skilled jobs will have long gone. They say that maintaining sovereign capability in nuclear fuel manufacture was essential for achieving net zero.

The statement says: “We are increasingly concerned that the current ownership model is becoming a potential obstacle to preserving the site and the jobs that depend on it.

“Westinghouse, the current owners, have so far failed to provide cast-iron guarantees on the future of fuel manufacturing at the site and have failed to bring in additional work either from their own reactors abroad or to fuel the reactors of their competitors.

“Unless this situation changes, we believe that the government should consider an alternative ownership structure that will maximise the possibility of protecting the site and maintaining this vital sovereign capability.”

The Uranium Oxide plant at Springfields

The unions point to the National Nuclear Laboratory and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as potential owners.

A Westinghouse spokesman said: “Westinghouse is committed to the UK and we are working with our partners to secure the long term future of nuclear fuel manufacturing at Springfields.”

A department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “Nuclear power has a key role to play in the UK’s low-carbon energy future and we intend to approve at least one large-scale nuclear project in the next three years in order to strengthen our energy security, and create thousands of jobs across the country.

“We recognise how important it is that we can manufacture fuel here in the UK and maintain a skilled workforce in the sector.

"We are working with operators, the research community and fuel producers – including Springfield Fuels Ltd. – to determine how best to meet the needs of future nuclear power stations.”

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